Q: When I was out poking around in a perennial flower bed I’ve made, I noticed the hollyhocks starting to grow. Isn’t it too early for them to be doing that? — S.C., Albuquerque
A: I wouldn’t be all that concerned. Hollyhocks are very sturdy and for the most part know what they are doing. If you have any oriental poppies planted, you’ll probably notice them soon, too. In fact, if you’ve any early blooming bulbs or perennials they’ll all starting popping soon enough. Meanwhile, be sure to give everyone a good drink. That way if we do get cold again the root masses will have insulation. I’d recommend watering in the late morning so the foliage is dry well before sunset, too. For now don’t worry, the plants know what they are doing.
Q: There is a honeysuckle plant growing on one of my walls. It hasn’t dropped many of its leaves this winter. Is it OK?
A: Grown in these parts, most honeysuckle can be considered a semi-evergreen type of plant, especially if you have it growing in a fairly sheltered spot and are offering it water throughout the dormant season. It is fine, and on top of that, it’s giving you a bit of color during the quiet time of year!
Q: I want to start setting the plants I brought in last fall outdoors during the day so they can get some fresh air. What do you think about that plan?
A: Whoa! It’s just now the beginning of February. No, I do not think it is the time to be plunking your treasures outside yet. If you really feel the need, I suppose you could if the temperatures are hovering in the mid-50s. You’ll want to have the plants back indoors, safe, well before sunset also. To me, that seems like a lot of work and I’ll ask that you wait a while longer. Besides, you could be setting up your plants as bug magnets. Who knows what kind of early bird pest is just looking for a place to call home.
Q: We have several older elm trees in our neighborhood and I’m noticing they have brown bud-like things all over the branches. We’re new here and I’m not at all familiar with these trees. Are they alright? — N.C., North Valley
A: I am confident that what you are noticing is absolutely normal for the elms. That lovely chocolate red-brown bud is the leaf covering and a sure sign that the spring season is soon upon us. First, the elms will pop with their papery seeds and then the brilliant light green of the leaves as the season advances. The cottonwoods and poplars and starting to color up with their yellowish-green buds, too. So, for now, enjoy the barest color change the elms offer and rest assured the growing season is on its way.
Q: I’m looking for an easy-to-grow plant for my office and was recommended a “spath.” What plant am I looking for? — I.O., Downtown
A: “Spath” is the shortened name for a spathiphyllum, or the plant commonly called a peace lily. And whoever recommended the spath is correct. The peace lily is very easy to take care of! The leaves of the spath are a long, eyeball-shaped affair and are of the darkest green color. When it’s in flower, the plant throws up bright white hooded lily-shaped blooms that are very long lasting. Another thing I really like about the peace lily is its scent. If you get your face right in the bloom and smell you’ll notice one of the cleanest scent you’ll ever have the opportunity of smelling. The scent doesn’t waft around, so be sure to get up close and personal with the flowers. Keep the spath watered but never allow it to sit in puddles, ever. It’ll survive in office fluorescent light, too. Given a window, as long as it’s not too hot, they will thrive!
Q: Suggest a couple of things I can give the gardener in my life for Valentine’s Day. Roses are cool but they get pitched soon after. I’m looking for something a lot longer lasting.
A: Well, why not roses after all? I was so pleased to see the first display of bare root roses available at a garden center just in time to warm the cockles of your valentine’s heart! The selections will do nothing more than improve as the season begins, too. Now comes the hard part. What color? Reds, pinks, cheery yellows, exotic oranges and corals, barest lavenders, brilliant whites? Oh, so many choices! You could take the easy way out and get a gift certificate. Whatever you choose, it will be marveled at for years to come. Happy Digging In!
Need tips on growing your garden? Ask Tracey Fitzgibbon, who is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio Rancho/West Side Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.